Dubai Mall dozen wait on contract announcement

Middle East Foundations selected to do the earth works for the world's biggest shopping mall

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By  Eudore Chand Published  June 26, 2004

Just who gets to build the Dubai Mall will be known in a couple of weeks. The mall is perhaps the most valuable square kilometre in the world, and its developers, Emaar, claim it to be the largest of in the world. “We have tendered the job. We are in the award stage now. I believe that there are about a dozen contractors in various joint ventures who have been shortlisted after the pre-qualification process. We shall award the contract in a few weeks’ time,” Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, told Construction Week. “The estimated cost of the project to build the world’s largest mall is Dhs2.6 billion,” adds Alabbar. He said the foundation work of Dubai Mall has already been awarded to Middle East Foundations. “We are still on target for completion by the end of 2006,” Alabbar says, adding that Emaar was careful to design all details of the project first so that there would be the least amount of modification once work does start on building what he claimed was the world’s largest mall. The measurements are huge. The Dubai Mall development will span about 1.2 million m2 in one of the most prime areas of Dubai. It will have a leaseable space of about 360 000 m2 (against current world champion, USA-based Mall of America’s 290 000 m2). To get an idea of scale, Dubai Mall will have a 16 000 unit capacity car park compared Deira City Centre’s 4000 car capacity. The development will boast 1400 shops, up to 40% of which will be new concepts to the region. Emaar expects some 35 million visitors a year at the mall. However, Alabbar admitted that no one remains the largest for long: “In terms of gross floor area, we will be the bigger [than Minneapolis’ Mall of America which has announced an expansion]. “Generally speaking, you can be the biggest for some time and then someone will come along and build something that is bigger. That is fair,” he told Construction Week. “However, others will have to work very hard to have the world’s biggest mall next to the world’s tallest tower (Burj Dubai) and other unique attractions,” he pointed out while stressing the intrinsic attraction of the project for the public, apart from the fact that it would be the largest when built. The project has been designed, managed and owned by Emaar and will have several “unique” structures and features. “The look will be modern with subtle Islamic motifs. We have built the first model, which will change as the design evolves,” Alabbar said. He announced that the company has undertaken extensive traffic engineering studies to provide for ease of access. The main entrance to the mall will be via Doha Road to ease the presure off Sheikh Zayed Road. The complex will also be served by one of the main stations of the proposed Dubai Metro. Access is proposed via double storey roads, the upper storey of which may be for cargo and supply vehicles. “We studied the Petronas Tower where the mall and the tower are in the same building. We have decided to split the mall some 100 m away from Burj Dubai. Traffic-wise there will be no [major] connection,” Alabbar said. He said mall construction will be financed by the Emaar whose cash position remains very strong with zero debt. He estimated returns in 11 years and said that since leasing opened, demand has been for 600 000 m2 against the mall’s leasing capacity of 360 000 m2. Alabbar said Dubai is not over-malled where per capita retail space is just 2 ft2, while in the USA it is 17 ft2, in the Far East 9 ft2, in Middle East 1 ft2. Tourism is continuing to grow at 12% per annum and there are 1.5 billion people just two hours flight time away who are looking for a safe, fun place like Dubai. Moreover, the Middle East has 30% higher visitor footfall in malls because it is a social activity, Alabbar pointed out. Asked if Dubai would be overmalled in a couple of years when Dubai Mall, Mall of Arabia, Mall of Emirates, Al Reef Mall, BurJuman expansion etc. will be completed, Alabbar said no; only that Dubai would reach the per capita retail space level of the Far East, which stands at 9 ft2.

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